Peter Robinson is now one of the leading crime writers, but he certainly paid his dues. He wrote a good many novels about his series detective, Inspector Alan Banks, as well as an excellent stand-alone, Caedmon’s Song, before his talents were widely recognised. When a publisher finally got behind him, and gave his work the marketing push that had previously been lacking, his sales soared.
I started reading Peter’s books shortly after he was published for the first time. They appealed to me a good deal, because they were to some extent in the vein of the kind of story I fancied writing. Before long, I met Peter at a meeting of the Northern Chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association, probably getting on for twenty years ago. Although he was living in Canada at the time, he was born in Yorkshire, and his stories are mainly set in that county. Banks is based in Eastvale, which is a fictional place in the north of Yorkshire, with elements reminiscent of one or two real-life towns.
In addition to his novels, Peter is a prolific writer of short stories of high calibre. I’ve been listening to an audio version of his short story collection The Price of Love, and I’ll post about this before long. With his short fiction, he ranges widely in his settings and plots, and I suspect that, like many of us, he finds the ‘break’ offered by writing a short story or two helps to keep him fresh in between novels.
I last bumped into Peter a couple of years ago at the Harrogate Festival, at a party to celebrate 21 years of Alan Banks mysteries. It was a lively and well-attended event, and a good illustration of how a writer who keeps working hard may, after a number of years, finally hit the jackpot. Like Ian Rankin, Andrew Taylor and Ann Cleeves, he was by no means an overnight success. But like them, he richly deserves the success he has achieved on the back of a long run of soundly written and entertaining mysteries.